Move aside Heisenberg, there’s a new face in town!
I can’t say that I am too well-versed in drug empire simulators (seriously, how many of these even are there?), but what I can say for sure is that Weedcraft Inc is a pretty damn good one. Developed by Vile Monarch, it tackles the hotly debated topic of legalisation through the stories of two characters who have been shaped by the titular drug. It may seem like a novelty, but it’s actually pretty in-depth. Players can create their own strains, branch out into neighbouring territories, and sharpen their skills through an RPG-like skill system.
Currently, there are two story scenarios available with a third set to be arriving sometime after launch. In the first story, you step into the shoes of a twenty-something former MBA student who’s had to end his studies early due to the untimely passing of his father. Strapped for cash, you decide to take a ‘business proposal’ offered from your brother and start to manufacture and sell ‘product’ from the base of your family home. It’s the typical rags to riches story in which you’ll watch your operation expand from a few grow bags at your home to an entire drug empire stretching across multiple regions.
The second story follows an ex-convict who was locked away after smuggling and illegally selling the drug. On the outside, things have drastically changed as weed has been legalised and social attitudes have adjusted with it. What was once wrong has now changed in the eyes of the law, but you still have to the live with the consequences of your former crimes.
Due to financial difficulties, you hook up with an old accomplice and throw yourself right back into the game. During my first playthrough, I selected the first story scenario and would recommend other players to do the same, as it provided me with a stronger grasp of the fundamentals of growing and marketing my product.
Weedcraft plays like your typical tycoon simulator as the central goal is to expand your empire and rake in as much cash as possible. Your path to drug lord status is segmented by different milestones which require you to complete smaller objectives, such as growing a new strain. As you complete these objectives, your influence on the drugs trade will increase and you will unlock new strains, new items such as lights and fans, and new features, such as hireable employees and the ability to create your own strains.
Your success essentially boils down to two things: how good you are with your money and the quality of the product that you produce. These aspects required that I made plenty of tough calls and I wish I could have hired an accountant. For example, adding a fancy light to my base would have improved the quality of my plants but would have increased total monthly expenditure. Having a better quality product, though, means that you can charge a higher rate, so it can be beneficial in the long term.
Managing conditions within your base to produce the best weed is the most rewarding when everything falls into place, but it can prove tedious. You can alter a plant’s levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium as well as the room’s temperature to find the sweet spot to achieve its optimum quality. This is indicated by a blue bar which will tell you if a growing plant is rare, uncommon, or just downright poor. The thing is, you need to do this for every strain and, yes, there’s a lot of them – resulting in plenty of trial and error.
Your ride to the top isn’t a smooth one, as you’ll encounter threats such as enemy gangs and the police. You have a red bar that indicates the level of police attention and you’ll want to lower this by disguising your actions and staying on good terms with the law. My heart was racing watching this bar slowly swerve into the red, as I feared my empire was close to coming crashing down.
Gangs are a pain, too. They muscle in on your territory and try and threaten you for cash to prevent future acts of retaliation. You need to be wary of your relationships with these two groups, as things can soon take a nasty turn.
The comic book-like visuals and hip-hop soundtrack provide Weedcraft with its own flair and tie in well with its subject matter. The sketches of characters are crude yet expressive, with a warm and lively colour palette to match. It’s a shame, though, that voice acting is completely absent here. Sure, I’d take no voice acting over bad voice acting, but this felt quite jarring considering how polished the rest of the presentation was.
On the technical side of things, I did experience a few crashes. A handful of times I had to reset my PC to get things running again. It was tolerable, albeit a little annoying.
Weedcraft Inc explores the depths of sensitive subject matter whilst providing a dynamic experience filled with choice and consequence. I loved watching my operation expand from just a few plants in my family home to an unstoppable region-spanning drug empire. Growing can prove tedious due to its trial and error nature and I did experience a handful of crashes whilst playing, but these flaws remain trivial at best.
[Reviewed on PC]